Estate planning is a crucial aspect of life that impacts everyone, not just the affluent or famous, but it seems to be an area that many people have difficulty addressing. Research shows that 70% of Canadians don't have an estate plan and 50% don't have a Will (25% of these folks say it's because they don't know where to start!). Let's look more closely into it, starting with "What is a Will?"

A Will is a document where you outline who receives your assets once you are no longer alive. It serves as a straightforward way to ensure that your hard-earned belongings are distributed according to your wishes, whether to family members, friends, or charitable organizations close to your heart.

Consider this scenario: I once had a client who made a profound observation. They highlighted that every adult essentially has a Will, whether consciously created or not. Without a Will, the government and courts may intervene in determining the distribution of your estate, a situation most would prefer to avoid.

Having a Will empowers you to dictate the allocation of your assets. By clearly outlining your preferences, you can prevent individuals you do not wish to inherit from doing so, as per legal provisions. This proactive approach ensures that your intentions are honoured.

Moreover, a Will resolves potential disputes over sentimental items such as family heirlooms, cherished possessions, or vehicles, which often lead to family conflicts. By designating recipients for specific items, you can avoid unnecessary tension within your family.

If you have small children or pets, a Will enables you to designate guardians who will care for them in your absence. Beyond asset distribution and caretaking responsibilities, a Will allows you to express how you wish to be commemorated, including details about end-of-life celebrations. To many folks, the process of writing a Will can seem daunting and time-consuming - having a simple document where everything is in one place can help immensely.

Now, let's shift focus to the executor, the individual responsible for executing your Will. This role is significant and requires careful consideration. While professional services exist to assist with this task, they are not widely available. However, we can guide you in finding suitable support if needed.

The advantages of having a Will are numerous and varied. It expedites the estate settlement process; particularly crucial during times such as the recent pandemic when delays were common. Additionally, it minimizes the administrative burden on your loved ones during an already challenging period.

Furthermore, a Will safeguards your privacy by keeping personal matters out of the public domain as much as possible. It streamlines your affairs and eases the burden on those closest to you during emotionally trying times. In the event of passing away without a Will, known as dying "intestate," the distribution of your assets will be subject to legal regulations, potentially deviating from your wishes.

Let's move on to the power of attorney - this legal role determines who manages your finances and property if you become incapacitated. In British Columbia, two types exist: general and enduring, both requiring establishment while you are mentally capable of making that decision.

Delaying the assignment of a power of attorney can have adverse consequences as illnesses and accidents can happen quickly and without warning, leaving a spouse resorting to urgent and costly measures to organize household and financial affairs.

Lastly, representation agreements and advanced directives are important tools that enable you to articulate your healthcare and personal preferences in advance. These documents serve as a thoughtful gesture towards your family, sparing them from making difficult decisions during stressful circumstances.

Organizing your estate plan through a Will and power of attorney is akin to extending a helping hand to your future self. It aims to simplify matters for your loved ones in your absence. If you have yet to consider these aspects, now might be the right time to start the planning process.

Download our free Legacy Guide to get started with your estate planning today:

Harbourfront Wealth Management was one of Wealth Professional Magazines 5 Star Brokerages for 2022. Wealth Professional is a free online information resource for all Canadian advice and planning professionals. This is not a paid award Harbourfront Wealth Management is not a sponsor.

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